Murray Thompson has directed my attention to a neat little film "Projection: 85 Years of the Projection Booth in Movies", available on Vimeo. It is an edited, 12 minute compilation of scenes in, or involving, projection booth from 40 films, featuring the near extinction art of cinema projection. It has a very long url but a search under the film title, or its creator (Joseph O. Holmes) should find it.
We can think on how fortunate we are in New Zealand, whilst other countries are still going through various forms of hell.
We took a pre-Christmas camping trip around Northland (which was fun) and I took the opportunity to visit a number of cinemas along the way (Kaitaia, Russell, Kerikeri, Dargaville) and they were all still open and offering a good range of films, even though times have been difficult.
A UK academic recently contacted me and asked me to comment on the state of film-going in New Zealand, and what effects COVID-19 has had on this. I thought I might share my responses here, to a number of questions he asked. I might be wrong or I might be right but these are my best guesses...
Your comments are welcome too
Q. How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the movie-going experience?
I can only address the New Zealand situation, even though I keep an eye on developments elsewhere (eg the fate of AMC in the US) through newsfeeds from Indiewire and Variety.
Life in near-normal here, with NZ topping the list of 53 countries in respect of its response to COVID-19 (in a just-released report from Bloomberg). Nearly all cinemas have been open since a return to Level 2 on May 14 2020.
The overall box office is probably down (2019 was a record year) but there have been no reports of individual cinema closures or multiplex chains going under (the latter are largely overseas-owned). Cinemas received wage subsidies during the March/April Level 4 lockdown.
Q. Are venues struggling? If so, are there any solutions or changes?
Probably some are but it is more to do with the supply of new releases, rather than reluctance of patrons to gather in public places (we have had recent rugby test matches, with crowds of 60,000+). Given the dwindling supply of big franchise films, the multiplexes are probably struggling more, whilst art house /independent venues have more varied fare. So there are more smaller films in circulation and recent releases eg I saw Spike Lee’s film of David Byrne’s American Utopia at the local Lido yesterday.
Local (NZ) releases are also advantaged by the reduced competition for screens and some of recent titles are doing well eg Baby Done. But I have noticed a greater convergence of film titles between the multiplexes and independent cinemas—this too may be due to what is on offer, with fewer American blockbusters (Tenet wasn’t the solution!).
Some independents are being quite inventive, through themed programmes or drawing on the back catalogue. Film festivals such as Doc Edge and the NZIFF went online this year, but from what I hear, they were not a great success. But our local film society has continued to attract a good attendance to our weekly screenings.
Q. Will coronavirus change how we watch movies permanently or temporarily?
Not sure. We may have to wait and see. In NZ, people welcomed the reopening on cinemas after an extended period of home confinement—but possibly more the social mingling, than any particular film. This could be the case elsewhere, once a vaccine is available.
The opportunities via Netflix etc may have become humdrum for some, and they are actively seeking the joys of the big screen. But it is difficult to ignore the attractions of Netflix when they produce such great series as The Queen’s Gambit and the film industry offers such slop as Made in Italy!
The new Mayfair Arts and Cultural Centre/Te Whare Toi o Kaikoura was officially opened on Thursday November 19th 2020, with the first screening in the new cinema (with seating for 95) on November 21.
The new Centre will continue to be run by local volunteers, who have devoted considerable labour to bring cinema back to this lovely town.
Much of the funding to rebuild the earthquake-damaged building came from Lottery funding but there was also significant community fund-raising--including $300,000 raised by the Kaikoura Community Opshop. All that remains of the original structure is the lovely pink and black facade (see image below) which invites you into a stunning new community resource.
We are so more fortunate in NZ, for all the talk of difficult times.
Richard Swainson, owner of the remarkable Auteur House in Hamilton, talks about his life in film, and about his establishment as one of the few remaining DVD stores in New Zealand (Note: Richard was my first PhD student at the University of Waikato, so we have a long acquaintance) https://www.stuff.co.nz/.../you-auteur-know-living-the-dream-in-one-of-the- last-dvd-stores-still-standing
In the latest of John Bluck's Smart Talk contributions to RadioNZ, he offers his thoughts and experiences about film and film-going in New Zealand--as a very personal perspective on how moviegoing in New Zealand reflects our character, history and preoccupations.
https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/smart_talk/audio/...luck-explores-a-life-long-love-of-the-movies-in-new-zealand or https://tinyurl.com/y4s5dy5o
Follow the link below to an excellent, double-page feature about the remarkable Regent 5-screen cinema in the Waikato town of Te Awamutu (from the Waikato Times, 4 September 2020). At the centre of the article is owner Allan Webb, who describes the history of the Regent and the problems it is currently facing. I add a few comments.
In conversations about this site, people often ask me the inevitable question: What is your favourite New Zealand cinema? I usually choose the Everybody's Theatre in the small South Taranaki town of Opunake. On other occasions, people report back to me about their own discovery of Everybody's, expressing their surprise at finding such a wonderful cinema in such a seemingly unlikely place.
But it has been there, in one way or another, since the 1920s. In recent years, it has had a new lease of life due to a very successful fundraising campaign, which enabled earthquake strengthening and a beautiful upgrade, together with the work of a band of dedicated local volunteers. What you will find at the Everybody's is a quite unique blend of classic cinema-going and local charm.
The next time you are through Taranaki, take the coastal route from Hawera to New Plymouth (Highway 45), stop in Opunake and discover this cinema for yourself.
January 2020 update: The Everybody's celebrates its 100th anniversary on February 20th, 2021. I will be there.
Geoff Lealand was an Assoc Prof in Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato from 1992 to 2017. Now retired (not a word he favours), he writes social history, maintains this site, its Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as going to the cinema at least twice weekly.